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“The Theory of Dimensionality”


The Theory of Dimensionality


L.T. Force, Ph.D., Gerontologist

It was a beautiful evening in the Spring of 2003. I was staying in New York City overnight and flying out of JFK International Airport in the morning. I was going to Geneva, Switzerland with four of my Colleagues to present our work at an International Conference on Aging & Intellectual Disabilities. Around 10pm, I decided to go out for a walk. I remember it, like it was yesterday. As I was strolling down Lexington Avenue, smoking a Cigar on this beautiful Spring evening - all of a sudden it hit me – the answer! The question I had been thinking about for quite sometime was: “Why is that some people can move through life with such ease – while other individuals stumble, backpedal, feel overwhelmed & feel as if everything they address is in crisis mode?

I really don’t know the reason why I began to think about this question. However, I clearly remember the face of the person that I associated with this question. I have a friend who – when you looked at her desk at work – it was in chaos and shambles. When you rode inside her car – it was in chaos and shambles. When you looked at the inside of her house – it was in chaos and shambles. It wasn’t just the visual representation that presented this theme – it was also found in her own words – where everything around her – her life events were in a chaotic state: i.e., unorganized, overflowing, unmanageable and overwhelming. And when I thought about this friend – I started to think about the contrast with other individuals I know – those that handle items, situations and events of living with such manageable ease.

As I continued my walk down Lexington Avenue, I realized that in my studies of Psychology and Human Behavior – I was exposed to the traditional theories of Human Development, i.e., Freud, Piaget and Erikson and others. Each one of these individuals had developed a theory to examine and explain the ‘workings of the human condition’. Freud, Piaget and Erikson – are giants in the field of Psychological Development. And yes, there are significant differences in their world views – however, there is one constant glaring similarity among them. They are all "developmental stage theorist”, i.e., they present the development and complexity of the individual in a “stage or step-wise fashion”, i.e., the individual moves or transitions from one stage to another throughout life. Most importantly, the individual can only move or transition ‘vertically’; one stage or step at a time. That’s when it hit me!

What I was struck by – is an insight or connection that I had not thought of before. I started to think - it’s not just necessarily the stages of development (a vertical up & down representation) that influence the behaviors, actions and thoughts of individuals but rather it is what is actually occurring within those stages, i.e., the “Dimensions” found within the individual’s life (the horizontal or width-perspective) that are actually influencing the behaviors, actions and thoughts of the individual. “The Theory of Dimensionality” was born!!

Theoretical Constructs: The Theory of Dimensionality

The Theory of Dimensionality (Force, 2003), is a theoretical construct promoting both an appreciation and understanding of the “Stages of Development” (Vertical Perspective of Development) – coupled with an appreciation and understanding of the importance of the “Dimensions” (Horizontal Perspective of Developmental Life Events), e.g. Health, Finances, Relationships, Self-Concept, Family, Career, Caregiving, Children, Spirituality...etc.) within that particular stage.

The Theory of Dimensionality paradigm is:

Ph = S + D

Personhood = Stages + Dimensions

Personhood (Ph) is defined by the combination of Stage (S) of Development and Dimensions (D) within that stage. The construct of “Personhood” (Ph) is expansive, organic and progressive. This is in contrast to the construct of ”Stage” (S) that is fixed and cannot be changed or altered. Finally, the construct of “Dimensions” (D) - being permeable, i.e., these are life events, unique to each individual, and can change in shape, size and intensity – by how the individual interprets or perceives them.

Inverse Relationship:

There is also an inverse relationship between Personhood (Ph) and the perception/ interpretation of Dimensions (D):

↓Ph D↑

↑Ph D↓

As Personhood (Ph) is diminished – the perception of Dimensions are expanded and elevated

and life events become overwhelming and chaotic

As Personhood (Ph) is expanded – the perception of overwhelming nature of the Dimensions (D) are diminished and become manageable Life Events.

From Theory to Practice:

Theory of Dimensionality

There is “Nothing Like a Good Theory”. Theoretical perspectives are wonderful and very useful – they become compasses to help Individuals find their way in life. However, there is a ‘therapeutic life’ beyond a “Good Theory” and that ‘therapeutic life’ can be found in an: “Applied Treatment Modality, i.e., a Practice Intervention or Orientation or a Way of Life”.

In the Theory of Dimensionality:

Ph = S + D

Personhood = Stages + Dimensions

* Personhood is defined by the combination of Stage of Development and Dimensions within that stage.

* The construct of “Personhood” is expansive, organic & progressive

* The construct of ”Stage” is fixed. (You can’t change your age)

* The constructs of “Dimensions” are permeable (i.e., they change in size, intensity & focus)

* Dimensional-Solutions are achieved by ‘Seeding or Flooding” yourseof with knowledge and opportunities for new skills and new perceptions that will assist in altering the your perception of yourself and therefore, your perception of the Dimensions (D), i.e., life events in your life will change.

It is not the “Dimension” (D) that changes – but rather your perception of the Dimension (D).

Change in Personhood (Ph) (driven by the Individual) will alter the perceptions of the “Dimensions (D)” - although the “Stage (S)“ Construct is Fixed). What changes – is your view of yourself.


Life is a changing format. This writing is a reflection of those changes. Some changes come in spurts - they are spontaneous. Other changes, develop across time with intent. Think about all of the things that we think about during the course of the day - some are longer narratives and replayed scenarios in our head, some are fleeting moments, some are slogans that guide us. Let’s talk about the guiding and fluid “Dimensions” - all the things that matter to us - all of the things we pay attention to. Based upon the “Theory of Dimensionality” - it’s not just about the stage we are in - but it’s also about the the things that happen in the stages (the “Dimensions”) some are static and fluid and some are locked in place. But the key take-away is, beyond the theoretical constructs and formulas, “if you really want to change then act like you do”. And the first thing you have to do - “is change the way you look at yourself - and then - all else will look different around you”. It’s a “reset” - of the only thing you can control - and that is the “reset of you”.


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